I went to see Taj Mahal at the Wilbur Theatre last Thursday night. I’d never been to the Wilbur before, or seen Taj live. I took my boyfriend, for Valentine’s Day, since he’s the one who introduced me to Taj Mahal, and also because I really wanted to see the concert: heeellooo total win-win gift situation.
The Wilbur is in Boston’s theatre district. (Well, you probably knew that already…) I don’t spend too much time around this area of the city, but I’d like to more. It has a distinct character: there’s the blend into Chinatown; the random bars and pizza places and skinny Emerson kids smoking their ciggs; the trash on the sidewalk and that semi-seedy late 1980’s aura still hanging around, but it’s blended in with all the new development and the fancy-pants W hotel and the billboards and the great venues, which add there sparkle and make me want to go to the THEATUH all the time. It’s a mish-mash, and I like it.
I also really liked the Wilbur, inside and out. I did some perusing on Yelp before I bought the tickets, and apparently people have some heated things to say about the theatre as a comedy venue, but as a place to see a concert, it was lovely: ornate gold leaf decorations, chandeliers, red-velvet upholstered seats—very fourth-grade trip to the ballet (Zeiterion Theatre anybody?), and I’m a grandma, so I secretly sort of like when you have no choice but to sit down at concerts. (Standing and bopping your head and arms around is so awkward sometimes, right?) They also had a really strict no cell-phone policy, and not just about photos—you couldn’t have your cell-phone out at all, and them security ladies weren’t messing around. But I sort of liked it. A whole sea of faces all night, and everyone actually paying attention to the music and the same thing, and not frowning or snorting while clicking glowy devices perched on their laps. (It was like we were, gasp, sharing the same experience or something…)
My boyfriend and I started out the night by getting a drink at Jacob Wirth’s (a whole post devoted to that wonderful place coming soon), and then when we got to the venue, a seating attendant opened the door right as we were going in and spilled my boyfriend’s beer on him, and she was all “I’m sooooo sorry, oh silly me!” and then went and got him another beer, even though he’d only lost 30% of his drank. So, like, WE GOT A FREE BEER. (At the time, it was REALLY exciting….) The night continued on a great track when I got to hear the woman behind us, who must have been sixty-five, tell her husband that he was just like Phil Dunphy, and he responded by saying “Is that the one married to the one with the tits?” A few minutes later, I thought I smelled weed. (Like I said, huge grandma alert.) I turned to my boyfriend to ask him if he smelled it too, and he was like, “Caroline, a girl with dreadlocks just sat down two seats from us. That is what you are smelling.” Pause. “You are a grade-A clown.”
Speaking of romance, I already mentioned that I was introduced to Taj’s music by said boyfriend; it was right when we started dating, and he sent me a mix CD in the mail with a bunch of artists on it, and some of Taj’s live stuff was included. (Sigh.) I fell in love with the music (um, how could you not?), and so I knew I’d enjoy the concert, but I was still blown away by the show, and I’m sure anyone who’s seen Taj live knows what I mean. Sure, his personality comes across in any recording, but seeing him and hearing him in the flesh is a whole different story—I mean the dude is pushing seventy, but he’s still incredibly charismatic, and so formidable, and just alive….he must be 6’3” or 6’4”, and he struts out on stage wearing his Hawaiian shirt and his fedora and then he plays his heart out while making these incredibly funny semi-lewd faces and gestures, and he is just filled with so much soul, and, energy, and happiness, and sex, and it was a joy to be in the company of his talent and life force for a bit. We had such a good time that I think my boyfriend even forgot about the Perk trade for an hour.
For the encore, Taj brought his daughter out on stage, who had actually been the singer in the opening act—though no one had had any idea—so it was a really nice surprise. (GIRL CAN SIIING.) They sang “Lovin’ in My Baby’s Eyes” which happens to be my favorite Taj song, and it was amazing, and I was sort of feeling my beers at that point, and maybe teared up at how sweet it was to have them singing to each other, and my boyfriend was like, “I can’t take you anywhere in public.”
But hey, I took him somewhere in public this time, so totally allowed.
Here is Taj singing another one of his hits “Queen Bee”, in 2008. I suggest you watch it and think about warm weather and relaxing on the beach with your love, and not this gross slush-rain-muck…